Myths & Facts
May 15, 2011
(This article addresses common charges about the end of the old Morning Show at KPFA)
Myth: Pacifica Foundation has eliminated the Morning Show from KPFA because it was in conflict with the hosts.
Fact: Pacifica had to step in to save KPFA’s financial situation. After 4 years of huge losses, KPFA had spent down a million dollars reserve fund and had to borrow money to meet payroll in September. It owes Pacifica much money for shared expenses, and threatens the entire Pacifica network with bankruptcy. KPFA’s budget proposal for this year was way overdue. Elected representatives of this independent Pacifica network that includes 5 stations, 160+ affiliates, and their voted in, legally-responsible Executive Director, asked all 5 Pacifica stations to cut down on paid staff 2-3 years ago, as the only way to meet escalating deficits. KPFA’s 4 “sister” Pacifica stations have already done this. Only KPFA continued to employ more paid staff than it can afford. Pacifica had to cut down on KPFA’s paid staff for them, or risk losing the network.Myth: Pacifica cut staff outside of specifications by the union contract, ignoring the contract, union busting, and choosing to fire those they considered their enemies.
Fact: Pacifica’s layoffs are strictly by the CWA-KPFA contract, using seniority and “skill set” as the primary criteria for layoffs, and have nothing to do with programs or politics. (Former KPFA management allied with Save KPFA actually did propose a plan to eliminate programs they disliked: Flashpoints and Hard Knock Radio.
Myth: There was an alternative budget proposed which made other cuts and would have preserved jobs. It was ignored by Arlene Engelhardt, the Executive Director, who is making these unnecessary cuts anyway.
Fact: This budget was examined by the Pacifica Finance Committee and the Chief Financial Officer, very experienced in this process, and was seen to have saved only a fraction of expenditures. Staff cuts were the only way. Check out the independent 2010 audit report, including the footnotes, for the sobering reality of KPFA finances.
Myth: KPFA’s union leadership is challenging the layoffs, so Pacifica must be anti-union.
Fact: Arlene Engelhardt was following the seniority list, as CWA had previously instructed her to do. The faction on the Local Station Board of KPFA aligned with the side protesting the layoffs (the Concerned Listeners/Save KPFA), unanimously voted down a proposal (by a member of the slate supporting the Pacifica decision), to make the cuts in compliance with the CWA contract! Who is antiunion?! Why is the union challenging the layoffs? — this union’s leadership is aligned with the faction which is refusing the cuts – the core entrenched staff/”KPFAworker”/”Concerned Listener”/”Save KPFA” faction. Some unionized staff members, including Flashpoints programmers, support the actions of Pacifica management.
Myth: Arlene Engelhardt opted out of taking the case to litigation because she’d lose, so she was forced to rehire Edwards-Tiekert, with back pay, but they went on to lay off John Hamilton.
Fact: Brian E-T had the option to move to another position and bump a paid staff member with less seniority, but chose to try to get his Morning Show back. When this wasn’t happening, he chose to bump, and Hamilton got bumped. There are recordings of Edwards-Tiekert admitting he could bump Hamilton from back in November. Pacifica granted him the back pay he was trying to get – though it was his choice not to bump for 3 months – because it was cheaper to pay him than to litigate and Pacifica could not afford the expense of litigation. After Edwards-Tiekert finally decided to bump Hamilton, several staff members volunteered to reduce their hours and donate them to Hamilton so he could stay on.
Myth: The Morning Show and its hosts are the most listened to and by far the best fundraisers at KPFA and this will deprive the station of all that money.
Fact:The show is in the morning drive time, the most listened to time of day for all stations. (Democracy Now is doing even better in that 7:00 a.m. slot.)
Myth: Laying off these hosts is the same as destroying this program.
Fact: These hosts are fairly recent to this program. Many of us appreciate the skills and hard work of those who were laid off. KPFA has had many hosts on this and other shows, who sometimes started as inexperienced volunteers and grew, sharing their skill, warmth, and resources.
Myth: These layoffs caused 7 programmers with more seniority to quit, and they were mostly people of color, so these layoffs are racist.
Fact: Seven staff members, mainly technical and administrative, took a severance package offered to all staff. However, that still did not reduce the payroll enough to balance the budget, so two more staff members were subsequently laid off.
Myth: Pacifica takes KPFA’s money for its expensive staff, and does little or nothing for stations.
Fact: Pacifica’s “central services” range from providing Democracy Now and FSRN News to insuring the stations plus at least 3 other essential services like insurance, the annual audit, payroll services, satellite services, etc. Were KPFA to pay for these services on its own, a recent estimate puts the costs at $200,000 – $400,000. Pacifica’s highest staff salary is $90,000 for the Executive Director, a low figure for this position. Pacifica cut its own staff drastically in the last few years and the Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer have been working extra hours as a result. FSRN News, which provides around 1/2 of KPFA’s news, is threatened because of lack of payments.
Myth: KPFA would be better off without Pacifica.
Fact: Besides losing the above services, Pacifica itself would go down, and we would lose an entire network of 5 stations and 160 affiliates, spreading information worldwide. Is that something progressives want to do? What would happen to KPFA after Pacifica’s invaluable broadcast license goes up for sale? Get bought by Clear Channel? Or a rightwing religious group?
Fact: The faction making these claims have had leverage to continue this disinformation because they know Pacifica must move carefully in the PR war their side has created. Many staff members disagree with their analysis. The listeners by and large have been kept in the dark about KPFA and Pacifica governance, trust their familiar progressive radio hosts, and have heard only one side.